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Rokoduguni named in exciting Saxons squad

17 January 2014

  • "We've followed Semesa's progress since his days in the British Army" – Stuart Lancaster
  • Junior World Championship winners Henry Slade and Sam Hill involved
Semesa Rokoduguni

Photo: Getty Images

Bath Rugby wing Semesa Rokoduguni has been named in a young 25-man England Saxons training squad to face the O2 Ireland Wolfhounds at Kingsholm on Saturday, January 25 (5pm, live on Sky Sports HD1).

Rokoduguni is one of 10 players called in from outside the Saxons Elite Player Squad, nine of whom are making their first appearances at this level.

The Fijian-born is a member of the British Army in the Royal Dragoon Guards and becomes the first serving soldier to be called up to the England set-up since 2003 Rugby World Cup-winner Josh Lewsey.

Despite seeing his domestic season slightly hampered by a knee injury, 26 year-old Rokoduguni has scored four tries in eight Aviva Premiership matches and grabbed a second-half brace at The Rec last night during Bath's 54-13 Amlin Challenge Cup win over Bordeaux-Begles.

"We've followed Semesa's progress since his days in the British Army," said England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster. "He's excited about playing England after qualifying by residence and his form and the feedback from the Bath coaches has been excellent this season."

The other names to come into the Saxons party for the first time are forwards Alex Waller (Northampton Saints), Dave Ward, Charlie Matthews (both Harlequins) and Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons), as well as backs Dave Lewis, Henry Slade, Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs), all of whom have impressed this season. London Wasp Tom Varndell returns to the squad for the first time since 2009.

They step up as temporary replacements for those players currently injured or elevated to the Senior squad that assembles next Monday ahead of the RBS 6 Nations. Gloucester centre Henry Trinder (groin) was not considered due to injury.

Gloucester Rugby fly half Freddie Burns is part of the group too, and will play a part in order to get some valuable game-time at Lancaster's request.

The Saxons squad will be updated to take on Scotland A in Glasgow on January 31. However, before then they face a significant challenge against the Wolfhounds, whom they beat 14-10 in Galway last season with a late-gasp score from Saracens flanker Will Fraser.

Joe Lydon, the RFU's Head of International Player Development, leads the Saxons management with Head Coach Jon Callard assisted by Simon Hardy and Saracens' Paul Gustard.

Lancaster said: "Our philosophy on selection is to give some younger players an opportunity alongside one or two more established players who are looking to push into the Senior squad.

Sam Hill

Photo: Getty Images

"It is a great chance for players to put a marker down and show they have the ability to go from club to country and still deliver the club form many of them have been showing. The opportunities ahead of them are clear with a major tour to New Zealand to come this summer before the Rugby World Cup next year.

"We have a good blend in the backline with the likes of Henry Slade and Sam Hill stepping up from England Under 20 side that won the Junior World Championship last summer.

"In the back three, we're all excited about seeing Mathew Tait in an England shirt once more and having him, Elliot Daly, Tom Varndell and Semesa Rokoduguni available means we're strong in that area. We will rotate the squad so everyone will get an opportunity.

England Saxons

Forwards (14)

Nathan Catt (Bath Rugby) 
Calum Clark (Northampton Saints) 
Will Collier (Harlequins) 
Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints) 
Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs) 
Jamie George (Saracens) 
Jamie Gibson (Leicester Tigers) 
Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers) 
George Kruis (Saracens) 
Charlie Matthews (Harlequins) 
Luke Wallace (Harlequins) 
Alex Waller (Northampton Saints) 
Dave Ward (Harlequins) 
Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)

Backs (11) 

Miles Benjamin (Leicester Tigers)
Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby) 
Elliot Daly (London Wasps) 
Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) 
Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) 
Dave Lewis (Exeter Chiefs) 
Joe Simpson (London Wasps) 
Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) 
Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) 
Mathew Tait (Leicester Tigers) 
Tom Varndell (London Wasps